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:: Guide Index » Woodwinds » Flutes

Flute Buyer's Guide

Flute Buyer's Guide

Flute Breakdown

section #1
anatomy of a flute

Flute Categories

section #2

Gemeinhardt 2SP Series Student Flutes

Student Flutes:
Designed for beginning musicians, student flutes are meant to provide an excellent start for the first 2-3 years of playing. A student flute typically features nickel headjoint, body, and footjoint then silver-plated with plateau keys, an offset G, and a C footjoint. Occasionally instructors request an open-hole flute or a flute with the split E mechanism.

Intermediate (Step-Up) Flutes:
Once a student is established and learning the fundamentals of good playing, it is important to purchase a flute that will continue his or her musical growth. Intermediate, "performance," "step-up," or "conservatory" flutes are usually configured with a solid silver headjoint. Typically, the body and footjoint are either silver or silver-plated nickel. Very often intermediate flutes are equipped with open-hole keys and a B footjoint. Though in-line G keys are more common, more and more musicians are choosing offset G keys on intermediate flutes.

Professional Flutes:
Designed and constructed with professional musicians in mind, professional flutes are high-end instruments made with fine materials and detailed craftsmanship. Generally, professional flutes are crafted with open holes and solid (sterling) silver head, body, and foot joints. Many professional flutes are handmade to very tight tolerances for maximum performance.

Artisan Flutes:
Handcrafted artisan flutes are true artist quality. The sky's the limit when it comes to the features of an artisan flute. While most are still silver-plated over solid silver, a few feature gold or rose gold-plating and engraving on the embouchure plate and keys. They are as much fine pieces of art as well as musical instruments.

Body Materials

section #2

Nickel Silver:
Nickel silver is very durable and more resistant to denting than silver, yet it still produces a nice tone. For this reason, student flutes usually feature a nickel silver headjoint, body and footjoint with silver-plating. Even on many intermediate and entry-level professional flutes nickel silver is used for the keys, which is then silver-plated for a uniform look.

Solid (Sterling) Silver:
Many intermediate and most professional flutists use flutes made entirely of silver; because they provide a warm, rich tone with clean, crisp response. Even flutes that appear gold are made from solid silver that is then gold-plated. Solid silver is used because it increases the weight of the flute which further darkens and focuses the sound, as well as creates richer overtones. An all-silver flute requires careful handling and so it is usually not the best choice for a young student.


section #2

Nickel Plating:
Nickel-plating is found on student flutes for those allergic to silver. Nickel proves to be an extremely durable finish that is easily cared for. Because the material is very light, the sound can be a bit bright.

Silver Plating:
The vast majority of flutes are silver-plated. Silver-plating adds not only a beautiful finish to the flute, but like solid silver the added weight darkens and centers the sound.

Gold-plating the embouchure plate is used in place of nickel-plating for flutists allergic to silver. However, all flautists will appreciate the added "traction" for the bottom lip, helping with fast passages. A gold embouchure plate also adds a touch of elegance to a flute's looks as well.

A small number of custom level professional flutes feature gold-plated head, body and foot joints with either gold or silver keys. Flutes with gold-plating feature a colorful, warm tone and wide dynamic range.

The Three Major Parts of the Flute

section #2

Head Joint:
This is the part of the flute the player blows into and has no keys. Many intermediate instruments feature a headjoint made of solid silver. The material used to make the headjoint has a major influence on the overall sound of the flute, so a solid silver headjoint gives the instrument the characteristics of a silver flute. The headjoint includes the tuning cork, which you can move to adjust the intonation of the flute.

This is the largest part of the flute and contains most of the key work. It is the center section and connects to the head and the foot joints.

This is the shortest part of the flute and it contains a few keys. A C foot is standard on most student flutes while most professional models have a B foot.

Key Styles

section #2

The common flute for students has plateau-style keys that do not require the more involved fingering technique of the French-style keys. Plateau-keyed flutes usually have an "offset" G key, which is a more comfortable and natural position for students.

Also known as the "Open-hole" model," the French-style keys are slightly more expensive in initial cost and maintenance. Its defining feature is the open holes in the centers of five of the keys. Open holes have several advantages:

  • The holes give a slightly clearer, louder sound due to the less obstructed airflow.
  • Extra effects are possible by "half-holing" (covering only half the hole of a depressed key, to bend the note sharp). This can be particularly expressive for jazz and other improvisational styles.


Offset vs. Inline G:
The G key is played with the third finger of the left hand and can be placed directly "in line" with other keys, which is believed to produce superior intonation. The G key can be slightly "offset" toward the outer edge of the flute making it easier to reach and more comfortable, especially for small hands.

Other Important Features

section #2

Arms: French Pointed vs. "Y":
The arm is the part of the mechanism that connects the key to the rod. "Y" arms attach to the edge of the key and prove quite sturdy. French or pointed arms extend across the middle of the key and allow for better key placement, fluidity and pad sealing.

Split E:
The Split E improves intonation and response over the high E, a problematic note on most flutes.

Embouchure (Lip) Plate:
The embouchure plate is where the flute player's lip contacts the headjoint. Several cuts or shapes are available to match the preference of the individual flutist.

Also referred to as the "chimney," the riser connects the lip plate to the head. The weight of the metal used for the riser directly influences the flute's tone (i.e. gold is darker than nickel).

These hold keys in place when they are not being used. Stainless steel springs are found on most student and step-up flutes because they are very durable. Advanced flutists, however, prefer the lighter touch of white gold.

Buy Your Flute with Confidence from The Woodwind & Brasswind

In choosing a flute, you need to consider your musician's age and skill level, and the kind of use (school band, marching band, orchestra, etc.) to which they will put their instrument. If for school, consulting with the band teacher is a good idea.

Shop our amazing selection of flutes including Altus Flutes, Powell Flutes, Yamaha Flutes, and more.

Whatever flute you select, The Woodwind & Brasswind's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee means you have 45 days to be sure it's right for you. If it's not, just return it for a full refund.* And you don't need to worry about paying too much. Our 45-Day Lowest Price Guarantee means that if you find the same flute advertised for less elsewhere, we'll make up the difference. When you buy your flute from The Woodwind & Brasswind, you can buy with complete confidence.

*All returned woodwind and brass instruments are assessed a $10.00 sterilization fee. Instruments priced over $3,000.00 are assessed a $20.00 fee.

Product Comparison Charts

section #5

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:: Guide Index » Woodwinds » Flutes

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